'It was a fairytale' - Club legend Cretaro leaving Sligo after 17 seasons

The Bit O’Red striker has penned an open letter to fans after the announcement.

37-year-old Cretaro.
37-year-old Cretaro.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

AFTER 17 SEASONS, Raffaele Cretaro has played his last game for Sligo Rovers. 

The legendary striker will go down in the history books as one of the club’s greatest-ever players, having scored 86 goals in 531 appearances.

Tubbercurry native Cretaro joined his local side in 2000 and enjoyed three spells at the Shogrounds – winning the league title and two FAI Cups — with stints at Bohemians and Galway United in between.

While the 37-year-old hasn’t announced his retirement, he has written an open letter to Bit O’Red fans today to reveal the news. 

“My dream was to play for Sligo Rovers,” Cretaro said. “I didn’t know if it was going to last for one game, one start or one year. I just wanted to fulfil my dream. I wanted to dedicate myself to that for how ever long it lasted, I’m proud to say I did.

“I have amazing memories that will stay with me for my entire life. It has been so much of my life since I made my debut in 2000. I’m thankful to Tommy Cassidy for giving me that chance.

“I was a local lad, I wanted to play for my local club and I wanted to be the best player I could.

“Each season went by and there wasn’t too many times where I reflected in depth and dwelt on it. It was always looking forward, trying to learn, trying to fashion the chance to do something better each year here.

“As I speak about it today I could talk about all those wonderful days. The game against St Patrick’s Athletic to win the league title and scoring two goals. Everything was perfect that day. The drama and the euphoria. 

The FAI Cups, the great teams, the unbelievably talented team-mates, inspirational managers, the dedicated people around the club and the passionate supporters who live and breathe Rovers and make it what it is.

“The feeling of knowing you were creating history for Sligo Rovers but more so what it would mean to all those people. I always just wanted to savour it and then do it all over again.

“Those moments are what you put boots on for. But you know too there were also not so great times. I never let those phase me.

“I saw it all and I just always realised there would be an opportunity, whether it was in one week or two weeks or how ever long, that you could go out and try to change it on the pitch and alter the club’s fortunes.

“I don’t think there is a secret to longevity in terms of me playing here.

“But for Sligo Rovers and how the club always comes back fighting when its down, that is the secret. There is always another day as long as you’re willing to work for it. The club has never been beaten in that sense.

“I got to fulfil my career ambition. I remember coming out of The Shed end in The Showgrounds when it was wired fencing around it and in my first season the main stand was being built beside it. As I sit here today, it’s a transformation.

“That came about by the golden era we had here. That was a legacy left behind. I don’t want to talk too much about my own personal legacy, I think that’s for others to do.

“What I would like to say what if I inspired one person, even just one, then I did a good job in my time wearing the Rovers jersey. If it’s one young boy or girl dreaming now, if it was one dreaming over the 17 seasons I played here, then that’s good enough for me because it can turn into something magical. I speak from experience.”

Dannhy Ventre, Raffaele Cretar and Gavin Peers celebrate Cretaro with Danny Ventre, Gavin Peers and the FAI Cup trophy in 2011. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Sligo chairman Martin Heraghty added: “Whenever someone mentions Sligo Rovers, it is often quickly followed by the name Raff Cretaro. He is the personification of our football club.

“Many things come to mind. The early years in the First Division as he provided the light that there would be better future for us all of us one day. Raff’s leap into the air to win a header defied logic and lit up The Showgrounds and wowed our supporters. We wanted a better stage for it.

“That came and each time Raff would step up a level when the club did. We yearned for trophies and they arrived with him at the forefront. He turned into the most feared striker in the league for a period and it was all the more remarkable given we had to use him in every position in the team!

Those goals stick out, the winning penalty at the Aviva Stadium and that incredible piece of magic in 2012 against Pat’s. The Showgrounds had never seen a moment like it.

“But what I will always be grateful to Raff Cretaro for is being the person we could turn to for hope. In tougher times, you knew he would be going out there and showcasing that insurmountable fight that is within him and our football club. He defined all of that.

“Raff played in every single outfield position for Sligo Rovers. He knew where his heart lay. How the story unfolded in 2011 and 2012 in particular was fate, and he made it so.

“On behalf of the club I’m so grateful for his sacrifices, and to his family as well as they kicked every ball with him.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

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Ben Blake

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